L.A.-area hospital faces $250K penalty after 'patient dumping' incident

A Los Angeles-area hospital agreed to pay $250,000 in civil penalties and legal fees after the city accused it of patient dumping, a trend that seems to be making a comeback among hospitals almost 10 years after the problem initially came to light, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Beverly Hospital, a 224-bed facility in Montebello, Calif. allegedly sent a homeless patient by taxi to skid row, an area of the city with one of the largest stable homeless populations in the country, without making any arrangements with a shelter for her, according to the article.

The hospital failed to perform a proper screening of the dependent adult with an emergency medical condition or to stabilize and transfer her before improperly discharging her to skid row, VCStar.com reported.

Because it agreed to pay fines and adopt new protocols, the hospital won't face civil or criminal charges, but the case reflects a growing problem, homeless advocates told the Times.

"Sadly, we are seeing patients from hospitals being dumped on skid row again without any plans for their discharge," said Andy Bales, chief executive of the Union Rescue Mission. "It is worse than ever. I am seeing more people--clearly patients--wandering the streets."

In 2005 and 2006, the city drew national attention for patient dumping after photos surfaced of homeless people in hospital gowns getting dropped off in vans and taxis. The media reports resulted in a crackdown on the practice, with major fines and policy changes implemented at several large hospitals, according to the article.

Another case surfaced in 2012 when White Memorial Medical Center discharged a patient who was being treated for schizophrenia and left him outside a rehabilitation center without notifying his family, FierceHealthcare previously reported. The former patient never went inside and wandered the streets before police eventually picked him up days later.

Patient dumping isn't just happening in Southern California. The city of San Francisco filed suit in September 2013 against the state of Nevada and Rawson-Neil Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas for issuing indigent mentally ill patients bus tickets out of town and sending them to California cities without making arrangements for their care, according to FierceHealthcare.

To learn more:
- read the Los Angeles Times article
- here's the VCStar.com article